Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marketing Their Trade

John Nagenda is a formidable man. Blessed with excellent oratory skills, it’s no wonder he is President Museveni’s media spin-doctor. Some people say that like the bully that Alistair Campbell was as Tony Blair’s spin-doctor, Nagenda too is a bully. Nagenda a bully? Though I have met him, he didn’t come across as being a bully but rather that of a man who is used to getting his own way.

So why am I harping on about Nagenda? A few weeks ago, he wrote in his Saturday column that after twenty years of service to BAT as a director, he had decided to retire though he didn’t specify why. This leads me to speculate that – he had reached the BAT mandatory retirement age or that as a non-smoker, he couldn’t hack the smoky boardroom meetings anymore.

With Nagenda gone, BAT won’t come to a standstill and the BAT top brass need not worry for I can fill the Nagenda void. I know the brands better than Nagenda. “ John, if you don’t mind me calling you John, did you know that the Dunhill brand has a smoother flavour than Sportsman though Sportsman lasts longer because cigarette scroungers don’t like it for it can have ‘a coarse like feel’ at the back of the throat when you inhale?”

Anyway, through the corner of my left eye I spot him. No, not Nagenda but a man who is obviously making a beeline for my table. I don’t know him so I immerse myself into my work hoping it would act as a deterrent. It does not. Now looming over me, he wants to finish the cigarette I am puffing on. He is not asking me politely but he is telling me. Obviously, I tell him to be on his way and stubbornly, he commands me to give him the cigarette.

I was having a good day and I was hoping that for once, I could write a column that did not involve violence but now it seems there is a melee brewing. Perhaps Cigarette Scrounger is hard of hearing and there is a need to bellow. I do just that. “Leave me alone. I don’t know you and you are bothering me!” I say in such a hoarse voice that would put Kizza Besigye’s voice to shame.

At that, Cigarette Scrounger goes livid. Out of his mouth pops ‘f**k you!’ Not just one ‘f**k you’, but three of them! He doesn’t end his tirade at that. “Who do you think you are?” he barks. “All I want is your cigarette. Is that too much to bloody ask for?” And he was gone before I had a chance to retort.

A few years ago, a group of men decide to do a spot of shopping. They were in the market for a television set, DVD player, a music surround system, some clothes and shoes. Rather than going to the shops, like most of us do, they decide to’ shop’ at my house in the dead of the night when my household was asleep.

By chance I wake up not to aid the shoppers but because I am rather thirsty. On my way to the kitchen, I peer into the living room and through the window, I spot a man crouching on the balcony. I try to figure out what my house help would be doing at 4:00am on the balcony. It is only when I look round the living room that I notice the Toshiba television set has gone missing as have a number of other items.

At that I start shouting, run back to the bedroom for my baseball bat and come back to tackle Thieves. As we get to the boundary wall, one of them stops dead in his tracks and turns round. Is he going to shoot me? Perhaps he has a machete and he is going to start hacking away at me? I brace myself with my baseball bat at the ready.
But Thief doesn’t have a gun nor does he have a machete. Rather he looks at me in the eye and in Luganda he says, “What is your problem?” Excuse me is Thief on the same page as I am? He also has the audacity to ask me what the problem is?

He goes on. “Okay so you caught us robbing your house but really, your shouting is going to wake up the neighbourhood so hush it.” As I recoil while trying to digest his bravado, his nerve and his cheek, he is scaling the wall while wearing one of my most favoured baseball caps, a cap that has covered my head on numerous escapades.

Have the cigarette scroungers adopted a new method of asking for cigarettes? Do they no longer feel the need to be polite but bullish? And the thieves too, are they trying to improve on their image? Have they taken a leaf out of the book of a former accountant at the Muyenga based NGO, VSO? You see, Accountant stole money and went on the run. When VSO took out adverts in the paper complete with his photograph, he had the cheek to call them and admit to having stolen the money but thought they were rather unfair on him by publishing his photo in the newspapers and under caption that read: ‘Wanted for Theft’.

tbukumunhe@googlemail.com